Crisis in Iraq
August 8, 2014
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The American military effort in Iraq — which officially ended years ago — has begun once again, with today's bombing of ISIS artillery equipment near the Kurdish capital of Erbil in northern Iraq. President Obama has tried to limit the scope of this mission — saying that airstrikes may be necessary to protect U.S. personnel in Erbil, and invoking the humanitarian imperatives of aiding the 40,000 Yazidi Iraqis who face slaughter at the hands of the Sunni jihadist group ISIS.

Still, as John Cassidy writes at The New Yorker, it's not clear when and how the U.S. can declare this mission completed.

Once the U.S. bombing starts, when will it stop? That is one of the many tough questions that Obama and his colleagues will have to answer. Are the sole goals of the mission to help out the Yazidis and prevent Erbil from falling? Or is this the beginning of a U.S.-led effort not merely to halt the advance of ISIS on its eastern front, in the Kurdish region, but to roll it back everywhere in the country? [The New Yorker]

And even though Obama seems loathe to expand America's mission in Iraq, this week's intervention represents a marked departure from Obama's long-held stance on Iraq.

Already, though, one Rubicon has been crossed. A president who came into office on a promise to pull the United States out of Iraq, and who followed through on his pledge, has just ordered more combat operations in, or over, Iraq. [The New Yorker]

NYPD
5:54pm ET
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The New York Police Department is creating an anti-terror strike force, Commissioner Bill Bratton announced Thursday. The 350-cop unit will focus on "disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities," he said.

The squad, which is expected to recieve funds from New York City as well as federal Homeland Security grants, will be trained in high-tech weaponry. They'll handle a variety of situations, like protests, Charlie Hebdo-esque terrorist attacks, and lone-wolf attacks, CBS New York reports.

Science says
5:24pm ET
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Pick a scientist at random, and she'll almost always say climate change is real and influenced by humans.

Pew Research found 87 percent of scientists in the American Association for the Advancement of Science will say so. By contrast, only half of U.S. adults surveyed believe the same thing. The rest believe, in almost equal measure, either that climate change is real but natural, or that there is no solid evidence to support the existence of climate change.

Pew covered other topics in science as well. Take evolution: 98 percent of AAAS scientists say humans evolved over time, yet only 65 percent of the general population is on board.

To see where else the public disagrees with science, check out Pew's full report.

TV Violence
4:18pm ET

Brandishing a pistol with a silencer and declaring himself part of a "hackers' collective," a man threatened his way into Dutch television broadcaster NOS Thursday evening, demanding airtime to broadcast a personal message.  In dramatic footage recorded in a virtually empty news studio, the attacker was arrested by police:

Before the gunman's arrest, he described himself as part of a group "hired in by intelligence agencies," and produced a letter claiming there were "eight heavy explosives placed in the country, containing radioactive material."

During the incident, staff were evacuated from the building and the evening's news broadcast was canceled.

the wonderful world of disney
3:58pm ET

Disney has crowned another princess. Elena, the Princess of Avalor, will debut in the Disney Junior series Sofia the First before spinning off into her own series:

In a statement, Disney described Elena as " a confident and compassionate teenager in an enchanted fairy tale kingdom inspired by diverse Latin cultures and folklore." The character will be voiced by Aimee Carrero, who was born in the Dominican Republic.

This just in
3:57pm ET
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After weeks of debate, the Senate on Thursday passed a measure to approve the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The bill passed on a largely party-line vote, 62-36, and heads to the House, where it is also expected to pass.

Debate over the measure dragged throughout January as lawmakers considered a host of potential amendments, including one from Democrats that sought to declare humans are to blame for global warming. President Obama has said he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

This just in
3:13pm ET
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Dartmouth College President Phil Hanlon has announced that the school will ban hard alcohol. The news comes after a number of reports about sexual assault at universities across the U.S.

The hard alcohol ban, which will forbid the consumption and possession of alcohol that's 30 proof or above, will take effect in the spring term. Social events on campus will also require bartenders and bouncers.

Hanlon also announced that Dartmouth will develop a "mandatory four-year sexual violence prevention and education program" this fall. Specifics about the program "have yet to be determined."

In his announcement Thursday, Hanlon threatened to remove fraternities and other student groups that fail "to elevate and not denigrate the Dartmouth experience."

Oops
2:31pm ET

A recent survey found that "the only thing people hate more than the government is their internet provider" — and it turns out the feeling may be mutual.

When a customer in Spokane, Washington, tried to cancel his family’s Comcast subscription, The Hill reports, he found his first name was changed on his next bill from "Ricardo" to "Asshole." 

Comcast has reportedly apologized to the Browns, saying the incident is "completely unacceptable and inappropriate" and that the company is "conducting a thorough investigation."

The family is not sure how it happened, either. Ricardo's wife, Lisa, reports that they had been polite throughout the long and frustrating struggle of trying to get out of their contract. "It could have been that person was upset because I didn't take the offer," she said.

Really?
2:28pm ET
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A medical marijuana retailer in Seattle wants to cash in on this year's "super bowl."

Solstice is offering 12,000 joints in a "12th Pack" promotion for the Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday. The promotion is only available to medical marijuana users.

Washington's King 5 News reports that employees are working around the clock to fill the 12th Pack orders, creating 180 to 220 joints in eight-hour shifts.

And for Seattle residents who aren't medical marijuana users, Solstice hopes its "Seahawks Blend," which is used to make the 12th Pack, will be available for recreational marijuana users in Washington state by next season.

He said she said
2:15pm ET

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura “won $1.8 million in a defamation lawsuit last year against the estate of the late Chris Kyle,” the Dallas Morning News reports, but the former pro-wrestler still hasn’t gotten over the so-called American Sniper’s claim that he punched Ventura out in a bar for allegedly saying the Navy Seals “deserve to lose a few” in Iraq.

Ventura, himself a former SEAL, denied the whole incident. Kyle's publisher HarperCollins subsequently removed the part of American Sniper where the story appeared, and the scene doesn’t appear in Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster film adaptation of the book.

“A hero must be honorable, must have honor,” Ventura said, referring to Kyle. “And you can't have honor if you're a liar. There is no honor in lying.”

The lawsuit against Kyle’s estate is in the midst of an appeal. It seems, however, that Ventura’s boycott is having little influence on moviegoers. American Sniper has grossed more than $200 million domestically and set new box office records for the month of January.

This just in
2:07pm ET
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The Federal Trade Commission has banned the alleged owner of a "revenge porn" website from posting nude photos or videos of women without their consent.

Craig Brittain allegedly posted photos of nude women online and charged them to take them off the website. Under the FTC settlement, Brittain will have to destroy all images and other personal information from the women.

According to the FTC, Brittain obtained the photos through anonymous submissions. The complaint also alleges that Brittain offered a "bounty system" that gave $100 or more for photos of specific people.

"This behavior is not only illegal but reprehensible," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "I am pleased that as a result of this settlement, the illegally collected images and information will be deleted, and this individual can never return to the so-called 'revenge porn' business."

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